GREENWICH, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — A childcare worker in Connecticut was charged on Friday with allegedly trying to force feed a fussy child.
The incident in question happened in October, but police just wrapped the investigation this week.
The shocking encounter happened at the Greenwich YMCA Early Learning Center, a place where parents expect nothing but caring hands to take care of their children. The head teacher in the toddler to age two program, 56-year-old Karen Von Tobel, was charged with risk of injury and intentional cruelty for allegedly force feeding a 17-month-old boy.
Cops say the incident was recorded on a smartphone by a concerned coworker.
“You can see the child trying to resist it,” Greenwich Police Captain Bob Berry said. “Did everything he could to move his head out of the way. The employee actually restrained the hands of the child, to the point where she was basically using the spoon to shovel the food into the child’s mouth. You could see the child choking and gagging.”
Police say one of the most disturbing things about the video is how long it is — 20 minutes of Von Tobel trying to feed the child.
“That was a significant part of this,” Berry said. “It wasn’t just an isolated… one moment of something happening.”
Court papers show a coworker told police “all the children cry” around Von Tobel, who’s described as “always frustrated.” CBS2’s Tony Aiello stopped by her home just two blocks from the center, and was met by man who told him “no comment.”
Von Tobel, who worked at the center for eight years, told police she did nothing wrong but the 17-month-old was “agitated and kicking me.” She also complained she didn’t have enough help and was under pressure after being made a supervisor.
“I wouldn’t characterize this as a problem at a particular facility,” Berry said. “I think it was a problem with an individual.”
The YMCA fired Von Tobel two days after the incident, from which police say the child was upset but not injured. The state’s Office of Early Childhood says it’s opened an investigation into the matter.
Meanwhile, the coworker who took the video told police the Y disciplined her for not intervening immediately.